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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Casino Ban Not Bad For Labor, City Says

MTPeople walking past a casino offering a luxury car as a prize near Pushkin Square on Monday. Deputy Moscow Mayor Sergei Baidakov promised that the mandatory closing of all casinos next month would not significantly swell the ranks of the unemployed — or m
A deputy Moscow mayor promised Monday that the mandatory closing of all casinos next month would not significantly swell the ranks of the unemployed -- or mean an end to gambling in the city.

"We are not trying to ban gambling, just regulate it," Deputy Mayor Sergei Baidakov told reporters.

Under a federal law passed in 2006, gambling will be confined to four designated zones spread across the country as of July 1. Industry advocates say the zones are poorly developed and that closing casinos will leave thousands jobless.

But Baidakov said only 4,000 Moscow residents would be affected, and they were being offered city-funded retraining for new jobs.

"We are often frightened that thousands of people might take to the streets and block the roads," he said in an apparent reference to the blockade of a highway near the Leningrad regional town of Pikalyovo by 400 unemployed people last week. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally intervened in the crisis.

"But for Muscovites, the city's labor and employment service is offering job openings and re-education," Baidakov said.

He said the city employment department received notification of more than 10,000 planned layoffs in the gambling industry as of late April, including the 4,000 Moscow residents.

Baidakov declined to say what would happen to the newly unemployed who were not Moscow residents.

The city has about 550 gambling establishments, including 29 casinos.

Baidakov said the owners of some gambling establishments have already informed the city administration about plans to move to other former Soviet republics and Europe.

He said 10 percent of the premises occupied by gambling establishment belong to city administration, and they will be turned into "socially oriented business" like restaurants and shops. He offered no advice for what the landlords of the other 90 percent should do after their gambling tenants move away.

Baidakov acknowledged that gambling establishments would not disappear on July 1 "with a wave of a wand." A special hot line will be opened to receive complaints on illegal gambling in Moscow. The telephone number will be released in late June.

While slot machines and roulette wheels will be illegal, other forms of gambling like poker and bookmakers will be allowed at specially licensed "sports clubs." Baidakov said dealers will be replaced with qualified "judges" at the sports clubs, and alcoholic beverages and smoking will not be allowed.

Sixty poker clubs are registered in Moscow, but only 5 percent of them are actually certified, said David Chichua of the Moscow Sport Poker Federation.